Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow in the Philippines, Gastrointestinal Catastrophes, and Much More from my Philanthropic Philippine Adventure

Close friends Heather & Scott visit the slums where creative
communities transform broken-down vans into homes.

Dear family and friends,

Throughout my trips to the Philippines, I've visited many emergency wards here. It's never fun visiting children or close friends who've contracted Dengue Fever, TB, or other ailments common in the Philippines. Late last night, I hurried to the emergency ward for the first time as a patient. Being the stubborn young missionary that I am, I was trying to ignore stomach pains that had been bothering me since 2 pm yesterday. I actually excused myself three times from my Tagalog class that afternoon to throw up. Each time I felt a bit better, so I figured I was getting rid of whatever stomach bug I had. However, when I tried to sleep last night, a sharp pain in my abdomen persisted and became so painful that I finally accepted that I wasn't going to be able to "sleep it off". I called up my schoolmate David (a Chinese missionary), and we took a taxi to the hospital at 11 pm accompanied also by his Filipino wife Norma and my language school principal Nenette. Thankfully, the pain became bearable after the doctor gave me some drugs, and a blood test revealed that I had a gastrointestinal bug that would naturally leave my system in a matter of hours. Thanks to the prayers of my Filipino friends and their speedy help, I already feel great today! I also thank God for my quick recovery and for the opportunity He gave Norma to share her faith with the patient in the bed next to mine. I could hear their conversation as I was waiting for my blood test results.

Please don't take that one story as a picture of how I've been doing lately here. I had a wonderful Christmas season with Filipino friends and family, despite being far from home. Actually, I had two close friends visit for the holidays - Heather Kendall and Scott Weber. They stayed here from Dec 21-29, and in that brief time we experienced as much of Filipino culture as possible. You'll see from the following pictures that I brought them to the slums to experience some of the poverty here in the Philippines. In contrast, we also went to the biggest mall in Asia - appropriately named "The Mall of Asia" - where we went ice skating at Christmas and chased fake snowflakes that fell from the ceiling.

Squatters stack their shanties in order to manage overpopulation.

 Heather & Scott quickly fall in love with the urban poor children.

 Nothing is more fun for me than playing silly games with kids.

Even in a tropical climate you'll find Canadian
hosers trying to keep their sticks on the ice, eh.

Our dreams of a white Christmas come true!

We also enjoyed a Christmas party and gift exchange at my Filipino Church - Jesus King of Kings Community Church. At the party, we made sure everyone in the community received a gift and every family received a bag of groceries courtesy of my team. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, for a week at Christmas my team/church adopted six children from the mountains who'd tragically lost both their parents in 2011. Heather, Scott, and I were able to spend some time playing with these kids at the party, and I helped tuck them into bed at night at my team leader's home. I was so moved when each of them said "Goodnight Kuya John ("Big Brother John"), I love you!" I was also inspired by the independence of the older siblings who fed, changed, and really took care of all the needs of their younger siblings. However, that's not unique to their family situation, as those qualities are common for older siblings in the Philippines. Children learn how to be parents at a very young age here.

 My good friend Toph leads our church in some carol singing at the Christmas party.

The "parol" is a traditional Filipino Christmas decoration seen
everywhere outside homes and in the streets at Christmastime.

 Teaching Ishmael how to make finger puppets at the Christmas party.

 Anne and I put Ishmael and his siblings to bed in Anne's home.

Scott & Heather experience their first jeepney ride!
The jeepney is a common mode of public transportation here.

 Scott & Heather discover that you can buy anything at the "Sari-Sari Store".
These common little shops sell everything from single-size
soaps and shampoos to snacks and one-penny cigarettes.

 That's right, we rented scooters for Christmas! Obviously I had no
clue what I was getting myself into ( you can see from the sign).

 You can't visit the Philippines without sampling the delicious mangoes...

...or the famous Filipino delicacy known as "balut" -
the scrumptuous, pre-hatched chicken fetus.

And I leave you with this tasty image of Scott devouring chick fetus.

In other news, I've moved out of the dorm and into my very own apartment just a 30-second walk down the road from my language school! I finally have a kitchen to cook my own meals in. I'll have to learn how to cook rice Filipino-style, as my new fridge came with a free rice cooker. School is going well and I'm learning lots of Tagalog each day. My goal is still to become reasonably fluent first, then I will return to a more prominent role in our programs for street children. Please keep the Philippines in your prayers!  Thanks for following along with my adventures!



  1. Glad to hear you are well and had a great Christmas John. My heart was filled with smiles seeing the pictures of the kids. Kind of grossed out by the chick fetus. That's one delicacy I would be glad to miss out on. Impressed with the ice-skating opportunity. WOW! That's something I would never have expected to see there. Thrilled for what you are doing there! Peace and joy to you.

    Shelley Campagnola

  2. John

    This is Greg S. You probably don't remember me but man, I am inspired.